Falcons’ defenders preferring Nolan to VanGorder

Mike Nolan's scheme and the way he's coaching it has paid early dividends. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Mike Nolan's scheme and the way he's coaching it is paying dividends. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

SAN DIEGO — When the Falcons ended last season with another early playoff meltdown, it didn’t matter if anybody else in the organization preached patience and threw daffodils about the franchise’s future, because owner Arthur Blank’s vote would trump them all. Self-made billionaires tend to be results-driven, particularly ones who type emails in a red font. If significant changes weren’t made in personnel, they certainly would be made in scheme and philosophy.

Which is why before you could say, “season-ticket sales,” Mike Mularkey and Brian VanGorder were gone.

It’s true that both coordinators left for other jobs. But both may have beaten the Falcons to the punch. Mularkey filled Jacksonville’s head coaching vacancy, but his exit probably was cemented when the Falcons’ offense shot blanks in the playoff loss to New York. VanGorder’s future was no better than tenuous when he left for Auburn because some defensive players had started to tune him out.

That’s certainly not an issue now. The Falcons won Monday’s game over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in large part because of Mike Nolan, their new defensive coordinator. His schemes, heavy on nickel and well-disguised coverages and blitzes, fooled one of  the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Most important, the team’s defensive backs have taken to the quieter Nolan after having their ears singed for too many weeks by VanGorder, the screaming sort.

William Moore had an interception and a sack against Peyton Manning. (Jason Getz/AJC)

William Moore had an interception and a sack against Peyton Manning. (Jason Getz/AJC)

To quote safety Thomas DeCoud, who accounted for one of Manning’s interceptions, said: “It just got to the point where we had to pick and choose what to listen to and what not to. You learned to take some things with a grain of salt. Brian was a passionate coach. He wanted his guys to be out there playing tough, strong and perfect football. You can’t fault a man for that. But it was just one of those things where you had to learn how to take your coach for who he was.”

William Moore, who had an interception and a sack of Manning last week, echoed those sentiments, adding: “I was one of the guys he yelled at the most. He also pulled me to the side and would explain things, but he didn’t show that side of him on the field. That’s not a knock on VanGorder. It just the way he coaches. Coach Nolan doesn’t do that. Everybody’s a man. This is just a job. You’ve got a responsibility, and you have a job to do. If you’re not doing it, there’s no reason to yell at you. They’ll just replace you.”

The defense’s performance against Denver (four turnovers, seven points allowed in the first three-plus quarters) would have been impressive even in normal circumstances. But it came against Manning, and after losing cornerback Brent Grimes for the season the week before, and Asante Samuel and Christopher Owens for stretches of the Broncos game. Reserves Robert McClain, inactive in Week 1, and Dominique Franks, both were pressed into full-time duty. McClain had an interception.

DeCoud described Nolan’s scheme as “an offensive approach to defense. Changing the math and making sure the offense is adjusting to us. We’re dictating the pace and tempo, rather than vice versa.”

What’s clear is the confidence they are playing with and how they’ve taken to Nolan. He has them believing in his system, regardless of the circumstances. They also enjoy not being yelled at. VanGorder was revered at Georgia. He didn’t achieve the same level of success as an NFL coordinator, but there hasn’t been an abundance of talent on the Falcons’ defense either, and there also was some question about how much freedom he was given from coach Mike Smith.

Nolan, for what it’s worth, said he used to be more of a screamer.

“I think everybody has to coach in their own style,” he said. “There was a time when I screamed more. I think as we all get older it’s no different than raising your kids and you get frustrated by everything. Then after a while you get … I think when you know how to parent is when you become a grandparent. So, I think coaching is a little bit the same way. As you get older, you say less and let them play more.”

Whatever his methods, they are paying early dividends.

By Jeff Schultz

Earlier posts (no charge, because I’m so generous)

Predictions: Dogs win cage match; Falcons upset Chargers

Goodell is in ‘fantasy’ world if he doesn’t believe product being damaged

Video blog: On Braves’ sweep of Nats and what it means

This Braves’ September isn’t anything like the last one

Georgia Tech shows its upside in win — and it’s impressive

Short takes: 3 thoughts on Georgia Tech’s win over Virginia

A Medlen start, a Braves’ win and finally a positive sign

Predictions: Falcons over 666, Tech wins, Pigs faceplant

Loss of Brent Grimes doesn’t have to derail Falcons’ season

Video blog: On Brent Grimes, Falcons’ offense and some early picks

Falcons finally show an offense worthy of their talent

154 comments Add your comment

Greg Mendel

September 22nd, 2012
10:03 am

@Nite Owl:

I’m with you and Paddy. I certainly don’t mind the analyses others post, but I’m just a fan — and a fan who’s endured years of Falcon failure since 1966. As I commented on another blog in regard to “SmittyBall,” there’s MIKE SmittyBall and RANKIN SmittyBall, and I’m still pretty happy with the MIKE version.

We may not beat the Chargers on Sunday, but Arthur Blank has finally built a Falcons team that simply cannot be taken for granted. Simply becoming a consistent contender is a big deal in the NFL. Playoff wins and championships will come. I’m not above nitpicking and grousing when we play poorly or lose, but I’m really enjoying the Birds these days.

Falcon Jim

September 22nd, 2012
10:37 am

JSS,

“No worries about the DF (Mexico City), I’ve been to the DF many times and I’m safer there than in most parts of the SE US…”

Well, they know who you are in the SE US. (HA HA)

Falcon Jim

September 22nd, 2012
11:03 am

Winning out in SD will be tough, but a 3-0 start would be great. The following three are winnable (CAR, WAS, OAK.) Then you get BYE (at least not a loss.) The BYE can help or hurt, you never know, but the three following BYE is the hardest three-set on the schedule (PHI, DAL, NO.)

8-1, or 7-2 with six to go would be sweet.

Falcon Jim

September 22nd, 2012
11:06 am

sorry, seven to go…………….wow, aging and arithmetic don’t go together.

Playoffs?? Plaaaaayoffs???

September 22nd, 2012
11:21 am

Tacky to attack the 70’s porn mustache man when he’s gone….he will not be the reason for auburn’s demise. Chizhead already created the sinking ship. That’s why OC malzone took a pay cut and left last year.
70’s porn mustache man will arise again, possibly as UK head coach…..hmmmm.

htwo0rider

September 22nd, 2012
11:21 am

jss,

you are one bitter dude regarding Nolan…did you google for an hour or so to show us how knowledgeable you are.

reached his pinnacle at UGA

September 22nd, 2012
11:24 am

VanGorder – all hail the porn ’stache

Falcon Jim

September 22nd, 2012
11:27 am

htwoOrider, got to hand it to JSS. Once he gets his terrier teeth into someone, he’ll beat em down,
ad nauseum.

Paddy

September 22nd, 2012
11:29 am

Falcon Jim……math and aging, I could not agree more. Directly related to why I can never find my cell phone and car keys. Damn young wippersnappers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Paddy

September 22nd, 2012
11:31 am

Or is it whippersnappers? There I go again. Martha, seen my phone?

JSS

September 22nd, 2012
11:38 am

Answer This…
“everyone knows he will be here everday (even when he is is Mexico enjoying the life…”

Again, a “wrong assumption” made by a person unwilling to back it up with research… From October 16, 2011-November 4, 2011, I did not post one comment on any AJC blog… Between February 1, 2010- March 1, 2010, no post while I was in Auckland, NZ…. You guys see hosts and it all boils down to this, I had the balls to say that your precious football team was not built to win playoff games on three different occasions… Moreover, I took the ungodly positions of questioning your sainted QB’s post season capacity since he the day before he took his first playoff, his second playoff snap (hello Mr. Williams), and again his latest great display in post-season performance that produced “cero, zero, nada, nin” points by the mighty offense. It gets under your craw, and because your chosen football team has not been able to take that glaring fact off the table…

“If I was on in Mexico I sure as heck could find 1000 things to do instead of post blogs on a website of a team I dont like…”

Pssst… You’re jumping the gun, I leave for the DF (that is Mexico City for you gringos) on October 12th… Then it will be: “while you are in Mexico!” And a little more “reading comprehension” might help your issues, it’s “wife-to-be.”

Leave WWE type conspiracies to the showrunners at that Titan Sports… It is not that complicated, Dimitroff did not draft well, you lack quality depth, the team is depending on teams not having time to get either get “adjustments” of their own or scheming weaknesses away, and your hoping that time with as many issues as possible does not adjust or correct their internal ship… And anyone who does not hold your warped views “hates” or is a “hater.” Sorry, not believing in something does not make it “hating.” Pssst, I don’t think the Patriots can win the Super Bowl too, guess that means I “hate” them too? Till then, stay out the human blog analysis building, it is not your strength!

Falcon Jim

September 22nd, 2012
11:43 am

bow down, grease up, and enjoy it………………………

I don't want no stinkin' union

September 22nd, 2012
11:45 am

Roger Goodell for President!

It's my ball and I'm going home

September 22nd, 2012
11:48 am

Mike Nolan playing quarterback or coaching defense in that picture?

Mike Jay

September 22nd, 2012
11:48 am

JSS, I would like to see the Defensive stats on your second half analysis. Doesn’t quite tell the whole picture without them. Could be the teams offense contributed more to second half collapses? Could be your right but not enough info to really tell. Reeks of cherry picking stats as it stands.

While in Mexico City make sure to go to the San Angel Inn, For cocktails at least but the food is top notch as well. One of my favorite spots.

JSS

September 22nd, 2012
11:48 am

Falcon Jim
September 22nd, 2012
10:37 am

JSS,
“Well, they know who you are in the SE US. (HA HA)”

According to you blog geniuses, that is not the case (this supposedly being so anonymous and all) ;-)

Nope, leaving politics out of it, but in Mexico (even as a obvious minority) people go out of their way to be nice and sociable (not a smarmy version of charm or manners)… Yeah, they have their issues, and unlike TV paints it, the majority of the people are pained by it, and not because it is life-threatening. However, all that said, take a wrong turn in these parts on the wrong occasion, not so much… Luckily I was born here…

Falcon Jim

September 22nd, 2012
11:48 am

Paddy, we have to develop tricks to survive. There was a period that I was packing my lunches (healthier and cheaper) to take to work. I kept forgetting to take it in the hubbub of the morning. So I would pack my car keys with the lunch that night before. Couldn’t leave without my lunch. We may lose a little sharpness when we age, but we gain seasoning.

Mike Jay

September 22nd, 2012
11:51 am

JSS,

I would like to see the defensive stats in your second half analysis. Did they get signifigantly worse? You could be right but without more info it just appears to be cherry picking data.

Also, While in Mexico City be sure to swing by the San Angel Inn for cocktails at last and dinner if you can. Superb atmosphere, service and food. One of my favorite spots there.

Fall Saturdays are heaven on earth

September 22nd, 2012
11:52 am

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO DAWGS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Falcon Jim

September 22nd, 2012
11:53 am

JSS, I’ve lived in the SE for fifty-seven years and I’m not paranoid about it. Never been to Mexico and really don’t believe I would want to go right now. But I do like the people.

jerry

September 22nd, 2012
11:55 am

Human beings are social creatures and need social interaction, feedback, and validation of their worth. The emotionally mature person doesn’t need to go hunting for these; they gain it naturally from their daily life, especially from their work and from stable relationships. Daniel Goleman calls emotional maturity emotional intelligence, or EQ; he believes, and I agree, that EQ is a much better indicator of a person’s character and value than intelligence quotient, or IQ.

The emotionally immature person, however, has low levels of self-esteem and self-confidence and consequently feels insecure; to counter these feelings of insecurity they will spend a large proportion of their lives creating situations in which they become the centre of attention. It may be that the need for attention is inversely proportional to emotional maturity, therefore anyone indulging in attention-seeking behaviours is telling you how emotionally immature they are.

Anyone on here fit the profile?

Falcon Jim

September 22nd, 2012
12:02 pm

ME ! ! ! …………………but I’m self-confident enough to admit it.

JSS

September 22nd, 2012
12:03 pm

As far as this supposed “Nolan hating,” he’s a fine (not great DC)… Problem is, he has a past and time does not that fact… “Hours Googling?” Man, you must be stuck in the 19th century, still using ‘Facts on File?’ I’ve had that one stored away since the day they hired him… It’s been a known matter, he’s not seen a playoffs since 2003, and his teams haven’t won (at leat one game) since 2002. Mike Nolan has failed in second halves of seasons with greater defensive talent. You folks swear that the goal is a Super Bowl championship, but you keep trying to make a 1979 Ford Pinto (that defense) into a dependable car. You’ll get 5000 miles out of it and then the problems will resurface… He’s an upgrade over VanGorder. Still, serious point, Mike Smith was standing there the entire time and did nothing to get his DC on a different page or work to get his management style to change and you kept him… They have a term for that in MBA schools. “Google” it, Enjoy…

Mike Jay

September 22nd, 2012
12:04 pm

JSS, without defensive stats to go with your second half analysis it comes off as cherry picking stats. you may well be right but just can’t tell if the defense lead to second half collapses or not.

While in Mexico City be sure to go by the San Angel Inn for cocktails at least and dinner if you can swing it. Atmosphere, service, and food are all of the charts. One of my favorite spots.

it's saturday, talk nfl tomorrow

September 22nd, 2012
12:05 pm

Grantham versus 70’s porn ’stache man at auburn nov. 10. ’stache man is now the enemy.
Dawgs win again.

Mike Jay

September 22nd, 2012
12:05 pm

Nice blog monster. 4 post in a row eaten. What a joke.

Mike Jay

September 22nd, 2012
12:08 pm

JSS, without defensive stats to go with your second half analysis it comes off as cherry picking stats. you may well be right but just can’t tell if the defense lead to second half collapses or not. Defense is only one third of the equation.

While in Mexico City be sure to go by the San Angel Inn for cocktails at least and dinner if you can swing it. Atmosphere, service, and food are all of the charts. One of my favorite spots.

Mike Jay

September 22nd, 2012
12:08 pm

Sigh, make it 6 post. Seems I cant wirte about anything but how crappy the blog software is.

Falcon Jim

September 22nd, 2012
12:09 pm

Mike Jay

September 22nd, 2012
12:10 pm

AJC your paper is dying. Your website is the only thing generating $. I suggest you get it in working order.

Mike Jay

September 22nd, 2012
12:11 pm

JSS, without defensive stats to go with your second half analysis it comes off as cherry picking stats. you may well be right but just can’t tell if the defense lead to second half collapses or not. Defense, offense and ST determine the final score.

While in Mexico City be sure to go by the San Angel Inn for drinks at least and dinner if you can swing it. Atmosphere, service, and food are all of the charts. One of my favorite spots.

Falcon Jim

September 22nd, 2012
12:12 pm

Does MBA stand for Major Bull$h!+ Artist?

JSS

September 22nd, 2012
12:13 pm

“Goleman,” than you’re familiar with John Antonakis’ counter argument in refuting Goleman’s claims? You need to quit, unless you’re licensed to practice… Are you?

Falcon Jim

September 22nd, 2012
12:16 pm

JSS

September 22nd, 2012
12:17 pm

Mike Jay, thanks, but I look at that point to, he threw up some stinkers especially in Washington, go look at 1998…

As far as drinks, don’t partake but I tend to go on the girlfriend’s choices since she is the expert of authentic Mexican cuisine and service… She hasn’t stirred me wrong in 3 years…

JSS

September 22nd, 2012
12:19 pm

@ Falcon Jim…
And what’s wrong with that? ;-) Still doesn’t change the term, Smith has perfected it…

Falcon Jim

September 22nd, 2012
12:19 pm

Falcon Jim

September 22nd, 2012
12:21 pm

I only have a BBA (Big Bull Artist.)

JSS

September 22nd, 2012
12:33 pm

Bout time for another quasi psychoanalyst to post… Oops, forgot king college football is on, they’ll be distracted most of the afternoon…

Mike Jay

September 22nd, 2012
12:43 pm

Jss, No you actually didin’t. You cheery picked. I just looked at his defensive stats from 2008 – 20011. The only second half that was bad was 2009 in Denver.

2008 18.8 pts pergame
2009 bad
2010 15.6
2011 16.3

1998 you say? ARe you sure you want to look at the second half collapse? Ok then. Last 9 games his defense gave up a whopping 9.1 pts per game. Ugg terrible. Though you did say Washington so maybe you meant his 99 season with them? 16.2 per game that second half.

So if we take a real look at the defensive stats and not just win loss records your whole rant seems to….well fall apart honestly.

Mike Jay

September 22nd, 2012
12:49 pm

LOL I just looked at the rest of the seasons on your list. The only bad second half was with Denver. you do not want to take a closer look at the rest.

JSS

September 22nd, 2012
12:57 pm

I said he threw up stinkers in 98… They got in some turnover fest that year, that 0-7 start did not help… The three loses were consistent (Arizona twice, and Dallas)… Despite turning over Arizona team, they still got evenly mauled by those two teams in passing and rush yards… And by the way, that 32.3 points per game in those 3 losses… But oops, that is “cherry-picking!”

Seven Faces

September 22nd, 2012
1:00 pm

Narcissism is a term with a wide range of meanings, depending on whether it is used to describe a central concept of psychoanalytic theory, a mental illness, a social or cultural problem, or simply a personality trait. Except in the sense of primary narcissism or healthy self-love, “narcissism” usually is used to describe some kind of problem in a person or group’s relationships with self and others. In everyday speech, “narcissism” often means egoism, vanity, conceit, or simple selfishness. Applied to a social group, it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the plight of others. In psychology, the term is used to describe both normal self-love and unhealthy self-absorption due to a disturbance in the sense of self.

Answer this

September 22nd, 2012
1:07 pm

Great to have people to hold you to your BS google search! Lol JSS you are one miserable person! You actually hold the dates and times you post? Man never put that in black and white again it really makes you look very unbalanced! As for you holding that stat about Nolan since he was hired! Dude you are a miserable little man! Please tell us why you come here to blog again? You dislike this team correct? Why would someone go through so much to prove how much they dislike something? Are you sure tou taking your meds Macho Man? Lol! You are to easy and the bloggers see it! No one on here has anything good to say about you…..coincidence? No way at all. You like your roll of official Falcon basher (and by the way I dont like the Patriots either but you dont see me on a New England blog bashing that team). The world you live in is dark with no flowers or color….and you are not liked by many….which tells me you were not hugged much as a kid. As for the “wife to be” my condolence to her! As for you holding warped views, hater, and all that ranting you doing Macho Man, I care less if you dont like the Falcons my only question to you is why in the heck come on here to give us all your genius stats (that appear to be cherry picked) and continue to bash them? Highlight of the day for you? 98% of the people in the rooms are fans so it speaks to who you are and how miserable you are in your life to continue to come back with such wrong facts and so mucg negativity. I hope the “wife to be”my (Mrs. Elizabeth….hahah thats funny) gets the other side of you or much like your untruth facts and your predictions ……..it wont last long!

Answer this

September 22nd, 2012
1:10 pm

BTW
I think Seven Faces is directing his post at you JSS…..just saying.

JSS

September 22nd, 2012
1:11 pm

I said he was “.500″ second half coordinator, fact stands… And the 09 Broncos were at least a competitive defense (giving him credit there), they didn’t fold like a tent until the last game… Poor Nolan, he could not decide what to stop, some teams ran over him, other teams passed on him… Good grief and then KC did both things to him!

Falcon Jim

September 22nd, 2012
1:13 pm

Wow. Pretty harsh. JSS is a fun foil to play with. It’s fun and OK to banter, argue and chide; but no reason to go personal.

JSS

September 22nd, 2012
1:14 pm

I see the multiple user-name personality disorder suffer finally played his daily hand… How’s life? Oops, forgot that is social behavior!

JSS

September 22nd, 2012
1:17 pm

Why not, it is his cottage industry… I survived the wrath of the Kevin Smith wanna-be… This too will pass… Just like raw sewage…

Mike Jay

September 22nd, 2012
1:31 pm

you can’t say he was .500 coordinator the second half. You can say the teams he coached finished with a .500 record the second half. He was only in charge of the defense and can’t control the other 2 portions of the football game : offense and ST. It is disingenuous at best and lame stat picking to try and prove an invalid point at worst.